What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve and can gradually rob you of your sight without warning or visible symptoms. The optic nerve is essential to good vision because it is the “cable” that carries to the brain the images we see. When this cable is damaged, vision is lost.
Types of Glaucoma
Glaucoma affects about 10 million Americans. The two most frequently occurring types of glaucoma are Open Angle Glaucoma, which typically has no symptoms and no early warning signs and Angle Closure Glaucoma, which is indicated by a rapid spike in intraocular pressure. Each type has different treatment options. Glaucoma can also occur as the result of an eye injury, inflammation, tumor or in advanced cases of cataract or diabetes. It can also be caused by certain drugs such as steroids.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can develop glaucoma, though it is more common in those over 60 years old. African-Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma, as are those with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of the disease. Southwest Florida Eye Care recommends that everyone over the age of 40 get a dilated eye exam once a year to check for glaucoma.
How do you treat glaucoma?
Loss of vision occurs when the eye pressure is above what the optic nerve can tolerate. Optic nerve tissue is progressively lost causing reduction in peripheral vision in the early stages. Central vision is damaged in the late stages. Visual field testing and optic nerve imaging can determine the amount of glaucoma damage. Treatment involves reduction of eye pressure from 30-50% of pretreatment level. Eye drops can be prescribed to help drain fluid from the eye or decrease the amount of fluid the eye produces. There are a number of different laser surgeries which can lower pressure by increasing the drainage of fluid from the eye. The type of laser surgery performed will depend on the type of glaucoma. The treatments are very quick and virtually painless.
When medicines and laser surgeries do not control the glaucoma adequately, your doctor may recommend a glaucoma filtering surgery (trabeculectomy) or tube shunt surgery to lower the eye pressure. This is performed as an outpatient procedure.
If you are at risk for glaucoma, it is important to get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once a year. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it is important to follow the doctor’s recommendation and take your medications as prescribed and return for follow-up to make sure the glaucoma is adequately controlled.